“What’s Next” 04/28/2019 by Brian Donovan (Click on title for audio)

What is next? Christ has risen, but what is next?

Our youth are graduating; but what is next?

Mini-missions are nearly done; but what is next?

We are aware of the hundreds of people who have died in Sri Lanka, aware of the earth, which is struggling to survive, aware of the thousands who live without a home every day; but what is next?

Although stories, cycles of life, and goals all seem to have an ending, it does not mean our tale is over. Rather, we are entering into a transitional time where we, as humans, start to ask ourselves what is next.

Before we begin though would you pray with me

God please be our guide once more as we enter into a world of transitional spaces and time. Please let your call fall upon our hearts and upon the hearts of all people. May the words of my lips and the meditations on all of our hearts be a joy to you and to those who are gathered here today.

Last week when our service ended, I went home and slept. I was exhausted from the emotional drain of engaging the story of Holy Week. Now this is not a complaint, I would actually like to lift this story up as to the life-giving energy I felt as a Christian who was able to fully enter into the story of Christ’s Passion. If you have not been able to attend all the services of Holy Week, I would suggest it next year. For, it felt like the culmination of a good book which leaves you emotionally fulfilled and at the same time drained. A book that you cannot put down or a TV show which you cannot help but binge on until the wee hours of the morning, not that I would ever do that. The truth is we come to endings in our world like the ending of high school or college, the ending of a school year or a church year, the ending of a life like when Jesus died and is resurrected as our fully divine Christ. We also come to the endings of relationships, Careers, political campaigns and reports which conclude but leave us feeling much the same way – drained and exhausted… Lost and unsure where to go to next. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Even in the life of this church there will come an end to mini-missions, to a particular GBIO mission, or to the Pride March mission until the next year and / or next event. These ending can leave us with a sense of loss, a sense of aimlessness, a sense of depression as we are plunged into a time of transition wondering what is next.

Now this all seems pretty broad. I seem to be all over the place. But the reality is Christ revealed a very broad answer to the question of what is next. In the last four verses of the Gospel according to Matthew, after the resurrection, after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go running off to tell the disciples the good news, after the disciples head to the mountain to where Christ is to meet them. We discover what is next. We discover that God’s mission is now placed onto these eleven disciples, and this is called the Great Commissioning. Although, these four verses come in the epilogue of Jesus life they are also the prologue in the story of our Church. The ink of the book which explains the church’s policies, structures, and organization. This mission is why we are all disciples entwined through the Baptism of the Holy Trinity. These verses are the reason why Christians evangelize, teach, and minister to people. These verses are the bases for the church which will be born on Pentecost. So, when we think of what is next, let us think of God’s mission.

Perhaps the idea of mission does not seem like it would fit all instances. But, I believe that it might if we think of mission as those things we are passionate about. The mission God has put in your hearts which burns to be heard, which yearns to be taught, which calls to be shared. This way of helping our fellow human beings is what we can always fall back upon whether we are lost, sad, or disappointed. The mission which God has called us too is our night light to read by when we share God’s love with the world.

Yet, God’s mission is too large for any one person to do alone which is why God gave this mission to the disciples, to all of us who became disciples, to the church which we would become. We simply cannot help everyone by our self – we would become overwhelmed and not able to help anyone. Even people we consider saints in this world like Mother Teresa had a very specific mission which was to care for the sick. We simply cannot live the life God gave us and learn everything about inner city school needs, the 1 K church outreach, common cathedral, immigration, food insecurity, etcetera etcetra etcetra. The reality is – no one person can affect change in every part of God’s mission. Yet, we can affect change together, as the universal church, when we each choose, learn and share the part of God’s mission being spoken through us.

This idea is why we have friends like a very dear person I know –named Leslie. She is extraordinarily well versed in the mission of the environment. She has studied to be a marine biologist in Maine and can explain why the tsunami in Japan reshaped our weather patterns. How the change of sea currents is helping to change our storm patterns. How the lack of snow this year will be detrimental to the ocean life and our summer. She understands how these aspects all affect our changing climate before we even talk about the environmental issues on the land. The ocean is her part of the mission as she goes through the world trying to make it better. Now, instead of delving into that part of the mission with her, I choose to listen and learn from her teachings – so I will be more informed about the environment.

With this in mind, I hope most of you have selected a part of God’s mission which is close to your heart, something which calls to you like the poor in the Appalachian Mountains or racial inequality, Feminist, Male, or LGBTQ rights, or perhaps even human equality. Food insecurity, Gun violence or concerns in Nicaragua.

I hope each person here has thought about at least one part of God’s mission, chosen one part of the mission, become a learner of one part of the mission which they will be able to teach. For, this idea of mission is what comes next. As we are re-created as a church in Pentecost, we are called once more to share God’s mission of love through our outreach.

However, choosing a mission is not enough to fully engage with God’s mission. We must also be able to teach so we must continue to learn – This area is where I have failed recently. Because the part of God’s mission which is calling to me is the mission against Domestic Violence. Sadly, over the last four years I believe I have only preached one sermon on this subject, the last research I did is now over three years old, and I have not even been collecting old cell phones for survivors. This said, I am quite aware that our lives sometimes push God’s mission out of view. I cannot beat myself up because I have been learning in seminary and living a life. But, now is the time is this transitioning space for me and truly for all of us to hear the call once more – what is next? What is the light guiding you to God’s love, what part or parts of the mission are you reaching to embrace, to learn about, to teach. I would like to know, the mission team would like to know and if you are willing – please share the part of mission God is calling you to embrace, learn about and teach. Please take a moment today to write it in an email or on one of the pew cards. If you do not know yet that is OK as well; but, I hope you will take this time of Eastertide to discern how God is calling you. What part of God’s mission are you passionate about?

Again though, choosing a mission is not enough. We must also continue to learn and grow. Phyllis Tickle says that technical knowledge is doubling every ten months and many scholars argue that all knowledge is doubling every two years on average. Thus, over the last four years I have fallen way behind on my research. Four years ago, the research for Domestic violence was primarily focused around female victims which allowed our society to establish shelters and resources for women. However, since the Me Too movement there has been an outpouring of knowledge about male victims of domestic violence. Such as the unconfirmed report that there is only one male shelter nationwide compared to the 3000 female shelters for survivors of domestic violence. Although the amount of women’s shelters seems wonderful if not a little low when we realize that 1 in 3 women are affected, it seems like a complete failure for our society when we realize that 1 in 4 men are also affected by physical abuse. This point is not to argue that women shelters should be lessened; rather, I would argue for more shelters for both women and men in this country – for the research is now showing men are survivors as well. This point is all to say that the mission God calls us too is not a one and done – we are called to continually learn, grow, and teach for the betterment of the whole community as we re-create the church in Pentecost by defining what is next.

Therefore, I know that I need to delve deeper into the Domestic Violence research, making sure that my knowledge is accurate and then helping all people affected by violence in the homes. This is the challenge I have for all of us. Find something you are passionate about, let that passion move you as you learn more about the topic and teach the people in this congregation about God’s mission being done through you. For, we can only change the world when we learn, grow, and work together to teach and love one another.

This mission is the good news which Christ gave to us at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew. The good news that the resurrection is not the end of the story but rather that it is only our beginning as we re-create a church to carry on with the ministry of Jesus’ teachings. This mission is what Christ brought to us as he commissioned the eleven disciples and thereby when she blessed us as disciples through our Baptism. Beloved we are a community, a library of good books each with our own part of the mission but incomplete without everyone else.

So, when we ask what is next now that Christ is resurrected, now that our church year is ending, or now that we enter into the thousands of transitional spaces, let us remember the part of God’s mission which is calling to each of us, let that passion help us learn, and let us re-create our church together as we teach the different paths to God’s infinite love and mission.

In God’s name we pray – Amen